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AUSTIN EDITION Albert Lea man pleads guilty to burglary

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

An Albert Lea man accused of trying to rob a former roommate by threatening him with a hatchet in February at an Austin home pleaded guilty Monday to an amended burglary charge.

Daniel Zachary Hillman, 20, pleaded guilty in Mower District Court to a felony count of second-degree burglary, amended from the initial first-degree burglary count.

Hillman admitted to entering a residence at 1400 Third Ave. S.W., without permission, to assault a man, who was 18 at the time, with whom he had been in a long-running conflict.

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Hillman didn't admit to allegations that he used a dangerous weapon during the burglary.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss the remaining charges, including first-degree aggravated robbery, first-degree burglary (possession of a dangerous weapon), another count of first-degree burglary and a single count of second-degree assault using a dangerous weapon.

Prosecutors recommended Hillman, who has been free on a $20,000 bail bond, not be sentenced to serve jail time and receive a stay of imposition, meaning he wouldn't have a prison sentence waiting for him initially if he violates probation.

According to the complaint, the victim told police he had been sleeping when Hillman pulled him up by his hair, put an arm around his neck and demanded money.

Hillman told the victim he'd kill him if he didn't give him money, the complaint says.

The victim told police he keeps a hatchet near his bed because he is afraid of Hillman. The 18-year-old tried to grab the hatchet, but Hillman got it first and allegedly put the blade to the teen's throat, the complaint says.

The 18-year-old wrestled the hatchet away and used its blunt side to strike Hillman on the forehead, the complaint says. That led to a further altercation between the two until Hillman allegedly fled after hearing police sirens. A roommate had called police.

On Monday, Hillman also pleaded guilty to two counts of fifth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, involving the same victim and another person from separate incidents in Dec. 5, 2004, and Feb. 4, 2005. Those sentences likely will run concurrently with his burglary conviction.

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All three criminal files involved incidents at 1400 Third Ave. S.W., which was Hillman's rental home at one time.

Afterward, Eric Herendeen, chief deputy county attorney, said he agreed to the plea terms because Hillman had no prior felony convictions and he'll likely be under supervised probation for 10 years. If Hillman commits another assault within the next several years, he'll face a felony-level charge, Herendeen said.

Judge Donald E. Rysavy ordered a presentence investigation for Hillman and set sentencing for Feb. 24.

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